Tag: NBA Playoffs
It’s time to look back at my NBA Playoffs Crystal Ball to see how well my predictions fared. Flashback a few weeks to the 2nd round. Much like everyone outside the Rockets’ locker room, I underestimated Houston’s ability to score points without Tracy McGrady and Yao Ming in the lineup. Shane Battier and the undermanned Rockets demonstrated a tremendous amount of heart in pushing the Lakers to a Game 7. This series featured the most intriguing offense-defense matchup (Kobe vs. Shane) of the playoffs and was probably the second most entertaining series, following the ridiculous Bulls-Celtics matchup in the opening round where nearly every game went to OT on clutch-shooting heroics. All that said, I’m going to take a point here since I did predict the Lakers advancing. Ditto for the Nuggets blasting the Mavs, the Magic taking out the Celtics, and the Cavs beating the Hawks. (OK, maybe I should only get a half point for each of those since they were relatively obvious picks.)
Moving on, let’s see how I fared in the next round. While I correctly picked the Lakers to advance past the Nuggets, the Nuggets proved substantially less threatening than I originally thought. I also predicted that LeBron and the Cavs would steamroll the Magic on their way to the NBA Finals. Someone forgot to send the Magic the script. The Magic 3-point sharpshooters were on target in this series, and I was particularly amazed at the relative ease at which the Magic dispatched the Cavs. So much for my recommendation to “safely pencil” LeBron into the NBA Finals!
And just like that, the NBA viewership was denied the ultimate Kobe-LeBron showdown. Fortunately, we do have the Nike commercials featuring Kobe-LeBron puppetry hi-jinks, so all is not lost. For the most part, the Magic have proven worthy championship opponents, but after falling in overtime last night, I think most of the suspense in this series is now gone. In the end, my final prediction will hold true, as Kobe raises a 4th Larry O’Brien trophy over his head. Lakers in 5.
- Lakers THUMP Rockets in Game 7: Not what any Duke fan wanted to see, but it was a highly entertaining series, and it was particularly fun to watch Shane Battier’s defensive intensity pitted against the game’s greatest offensive force in Kobe Bryant.
- Magic Eliminate Celtics in Game 7: While the Magic also won by 19 points, this game was much closer than the Lakers-Rockets matchup. Hedo Turkoglu paced the Magic with 25 points and the Magic’s three-point shooters finally found their range, connecting on a blazing 62% in this game. Duke fans were happy to see JJ Redick log a solid 24 minutes, including 5 points and 4 assists, in this pivotal Game 7. While many people will argue that Ray Allen simply had a poor-shooting series, JJ’s superbly effective defensive efforts cannot be overlooked; as strange as it sounds, JJ earned his keep on the defensive end of the court in this series.
- I would also like to note that both of these outcomes held true to my NBA Playoff predictions – so far so good there!
- Duke Lacrosse Advances to Final Four: The once-maligned Duke Lacrosse program continued its stellar play, beating arch rival North Carolina 12-11. Duke looked to put the game away midway through the 4th quarter with a pair of goals to stretch the lead to 12-8, but Carolina mounted a comeback by capitalizing on untimely turnovers. Carolina’s desperation shot on goal went awry in the closing seconds to secure the Blue Devils’ victory. Duke will face Syracuse next weekend at the Final Four in Foxborough, MA. This marks Duke’s third consecutive Final Four appearance and its fourth in five years.
- John Wall Does Not Commit to UK: It was heavily rumored on many Internet sites and message boards that #1 PG prospect John Wall would commit to John Calipari and his UK Wildcats over the weekend. You know what they say about rumors…
I started this post Friday night / Saturday morning after the Lakers took out the Rockets 108-94 in Game 3. After watching the Magic take a 2-1 series lead earlier in the night, and watching LeBron continue to dominate the day before, I pretty much saw everything I needed to put my predictions in print.
However, for the sake of journalistic integrity, I decided not to post this article until I also saw Game 3 of the Nuggets-Mavericks series. Well, waiting one more day took a lot of the suspense out of these predictions!
In that one day, the playoff picture became much clearer in two ways:
- Yao Ming broke his left foot and is out for the remainder of the playoffs
- The NBA refs missed the Mavs “foul-to-give” prior to Melo’s game-clinching 3-pointer
Both series are now over.
When Tracy McGrady went down earlier this season, Houston completely restructured their offense to flow through Yao, and the center flourished in his expanded role. Without Yao and T-Mac, the Rockets simply do not have the offensive firepower to stay with the Lakers. As much as I love Shane Battier and the Rockets, and I was really REALLY looking forward to an epic 6/7-game series featuring the Kobe-Shane offense-defense battle, this series is now finished. The Rockets might be able to ride home court emotion to a win today, but it is far more likely that their Game 1 victory becomes the Rockets last win this season.
The Mavs showed great potential in their opening round dismantling of the Spurs, and I was fully expecting the Mavs to make the Nuggets series competitive yesterday. And they did, until the waning seconds of Game 3. In fairness, this loss can’t be pinned on the refs. If Antoine Wright correctly wraps up Carmelo with his arms, as all players are taught to do in foul-to-give situations, then the refs are a non-story today. Furthermore, even if the refs called the foul-to-give, the Nuggets would still be in-bounding the ball with ~4-5 seconds on the clock, depending on which of the two missed calls the refs whistle, and it is certainly possible that the Nuggets hit a similar shot to win the game. Regardless, the bottom-line here is that the series stands at 3-0, and the Mavs are finished.
Same 3-0 logic applies to the Cavs series, although this series was over at 0-0 once LeBron walked onto the court.
And without Kevin Garnett powering the Celtics, they’re going down to the Magic in six. The Celtics gave us a great series against the Bulls, but Dwight Howard and the 3-point shooting Magic are going to be too much for the Celtics too overcome without KG.
That sets up an interesting Lakers-Nuggets battle out West, and a less-interesting Cavs-Magic series in the East. It’s obvious that LeBron is on a mission and we are all witness. While the Cavs will get tested (i.e., lose a game, maybe two) in this series, you can safely pencil LeBron and the Cavs into the NBA Finals.
Out West, the Nuggets are going to prove to be a dangerous opponent for the Lakers, particularly if the Cavs quickly dismantle the Magic and the Lakers start to look ahead to their much-hyped Finals opponent. The Nuggets are surprisingly deep, and if Dahntay Jones can apply similarly effective Battier-like defense on Kobe, the Nuggets will have a fighting chance. In the end, the Nuggets series will prove to be the Lakers “test of will” that the Rockets series should have been. Lakers in 6.
Now, the ultimate showdown: Kobe and the Lakers vs. LeBron and the Cavs. An NBA fan’s dream match-up! (Not to mention the NBA execs – imagine the ratings for this one!) I’ll save the more in-depth analysis for when this series actually comes to fruition, but in short, I expect the Lakers supporting cast to be too much for the Cavs. LeBron might average a whooping 37-12-9 in the series, and likely outduel Kobe in the process, but can his teammates keep up with the Lakers’ Gasol, Bynum, and Odom? I don’t think so.
LeBron vs. Kobe. Lakers vs. Cavs. An epic. Lakers in 7.